To Do: 5 Places in Brussels

26 Aug

I had a few days to myself before school started this week that I earmarked for wondering around Brussels, seeing what there is to experience. Unfortunately for me, I had errands that were really more important than wondering and I didn’t feel the greatest. However, I am going to a college that schedules a bus and walking tour of Brussels available to first year and study abroad students for the weekend before classes start, so I took part in that. Thanks to Mother Nature, that walking tour turned into a strictly bus tour  because it was super cold and rainy! I enjoyed it this way because not only did I get to sit and see a great overview of the city that I will be spending the next 9 months, but our guide (a professor who teaches about European history and has lived in Brussels her entire life) got to give us great explanations of what we were seeing.

So on this trip, I saw a TON of great places to visit this year. However, in this post, I have narrowed that list down to 5 specific places that I know for a fact that I really want to visit. Most of the information I am posting about each of the sites came directing from our professor. Pardon the pictures I’m posting; I took them with my phone, through a bus window, during the rain. Better pictures will come later when I visit them for real.

1. Law Courts of Brussels

Law Courts of Brussels

Law Courts of Brussels

     Also known as the Palace of Justice and the Palais de Justice (in French), this was commissioned to honor Belgium’s 50th anniversary as an independent country by King Leopold II. It is located in uptown Brussels, which is literally called that because it is up above the rest of the city. There is a spot next to this building where you can look out and see Brussels spread out below you. In the Middle Ages, this was the site where public hangings would take place. Vesalius (our college’s namesake) would come here after hangings and collect the bodies to study them to learn more about anatomy. It has an eclectic architectural style, meaning that it does not display just one style throughout its design. For the 19th and most of the 20th century, this was the biggest building in Western Europe.

2. Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

     The Belgian Constitution was made in 1830, and construction of this Royal Palace was completed in 1850. Though this is the seat of the government, the currently King of Belgium, King Philippe, and his wife, Mathilde, live in a royal mansion in a different part of the city. The Royal Palace is located in an area called the Royal Park, which also holds the Belgian Parliament and the Belgian Prime Minister’s offices. In the actual park next to this building, there is an interesting monument. There was a point in Belgium’s history where a large party was thrown. At this party, Peter the Great indulged in great amounts of both food and alcohol. This monument in the park is there to commemorate the place in which Peter the Great got sick that evening.

3. Cinquantenaire



     The Cinquantenaire was commissioned at the some time as the Law Courts of Brussels, by King Leopold II, to celebrate Belgium’s 50th anniversary. It was not completed until after he passed away and was inaugurated by King Albert I. King Albert was actually Leopold II’s nephew and never actually planned to have to take over the thrown. Unfortunately for him, he eventually was king and had to serve during World War I, when he stayed with his army instead of fleeing the country.

4. Chinese Pavilion

Chinese Pavilion

Chinese Pavilion

     This pavilion was one of the exhibits at the 1900 World Fair in Paris, France. King Leopold II like it so much that he had it and the Japanese Tower reconstructed in Brussels after the World Fair was completed. The outside of this structure takes parts of many different kinds of Chinese architecture into its design, the interior is actually designed in an art nouveau style. Interestingly enough, the man who design this was French and had never actually been to China.

5. Atomium



     Of course, no trip to Brussels would be complete without going to their iconic destination, the Atomium. The Atomium is a replica of an iron molecule (increased in size by 165 billion times) made for the 1958 World Fair in Brussels. It was never meant to last longer than the World Fair, but the people fell in love with their symbol and it remained; however, it was at one time damaged and had to be rebuilt in a different kind of material. When this happened, tightrope walkers had to be commissioned to put parts of the structure back together.


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